I’m Real

Reality television goes above-and-beyond to convince the viewers that it’s “real” and “authentic”; but it’s kind of weird to me to think that people can actually go about their day-to-day lives with a camera crew following them, constantly having to set up and break down, without that having some sort of impact on their behavior and relationships with each other. In the case of the Real Housewives shows, obviously they aren’t being followed 24/7 the way The Real World always claimed they did with their casts…which was exposed for bullshit to me when MTV was filming The Real World: New Orleans and they lived in the Bellefort mansion on St. Charles Avenue–essentially in my neighborhood. Periodically I would see a group of them–young people I assumed were the cast–walking around in the neighborhood with a camera crew following them on their way to someplace they were going to film…which meant that obviously they weren’t being filmed 24/7 as the camera men were not filming them as they walked. That breaking of the fourth wall for me was kind of a spoiler in some ways (I never really spent a great deal of thought on the show or how it was made; if I had spent a minute or two thinking about it rather than just blindly accepting what I was told I would have realized how ludicrous the 24/7 filming thing they claimed actually was–but I never cared enough to question anything). After that fourth wall was broken for me, I wasn’t as into The Real World as I had been previously; plus, the longer the show went on, the more it became focused on blackout drinking, sex, and violence–none of which I particularly wanted to watch, really.

When Bravo–which used to be a more higher-minded channel showing Inside the Actor’s Studio as well as syndicated repeats of Law and Order and The West Wing–chose to capitalize on the success of their first forays into reality television with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the great reality competition shows Project Runway (we were obsessed with it) and Top Chef by going for something a little more Real World-ish with The Real Housewives of Orange County, I wasn’t particularly interested. As Sonja Morgan was told by Bethenny Frankel in one memorable encounter on the New York franchise, “it’s a cheater brand”–something branded similarly to something vastly more successful as an attempt to piggy-back on that success; in this case, they were copying ABC’s breakout hit Desperate Housewives AND The OC. The ubiquitous previews–run constantly during the syndicated repeats we watched as well as the competition programs–did nothing to inspire me to want to watch even a little bit. The show was successful enough to spawn another franchise in New York, and then another in Atlanta. These shows became part of the public consciousness, really; you couldn’t get away from them, particularly if you watched anything else on Bravo–you began to learn what some of the women’s names were; began to know who was friends with whom and who couldn’t stand who; who was fighting with who and why and so on. Sometimes on weekends while Paul slept on the couch and I sat in my chair reading a book or revising something I was working on, I would just put the channel on Bravo because they always ran marathons on the weekends–whether it was The West Wing, Law and Order, Project Runway or a Housewives franchise–primarily because I always need some sort of noise in the background whenever I do anything. Occasionally Paul would wake up and watch for a few minutes, or I would look up and watch for a while, slowly figuring out what was actually going on with the show, but not interested enough to watch as they aired or become heavily involved. Paul and I actually started watching Atlanta when it started airing–we were drawn in by previews featuring NeNe Leakes, who was hilarious–but I wasn’t very comfortable with it, to be honest; my liberal white guilt made me wonder whether this was a kind of “look at the how funny and weird Black women are!” kind of show. I also didn’t like that the first show to feature Black women had a token white woman on it–none of the other shows with all white casts ever added a minority to the mix; why couldn’t Black women have a show that was all about Black women without needing a white woman to round out the cast? And I was definitely not a fan of Kim Zolciak, so we gradually stopped watching regularly; after all, there was always a marathon going to be aired at some point on a weekend.

I also gave Beverly Hills a whirl when it first aired, primarily because I remembered Kim Richards from her days as a child actress and wanted to see her as an adult. Seeing what she’d become was a bit of a shock, but I watched that entire first season as it aired in amazement, falling in love with Lisa Vanderpump (as so many did) and kind of liking Camille Grammer. She was a bit unfiltered and came across as a very spoiled, privileged white woman…but she was fun to watch and I couldn’t stand Kyle Richards, who was her primary antagonist. But I stopped watching when the show became too dark in the second season, dealing with spousal abuse of one of the cast-members and her husband’s eventual suicide.

A little too real, frankly.

But some friends got me to start watching New York again as it aired in a later season, and this time, I embraced the lunacy and the madness, seeing it for what it was: entertainment. Sure, there was an element of people being rewarded for behaving badly, and whether the madness I was watching was authentic and real, filmed as it occurred, or was “produced” really didn’t matter. I didn’t need to see how the cheese was made, nor did I care; but as I started watching the others so I could talk about them with my friends, dissecting characters and behaviors, I began to realize that these shows were the nighttime soaps of this new age; addictive shows about people with money behaving badly that we talked about (I used to watch Dynasty with a huge group of friends, every Wednesday night: Bong Hits with the Carringtons and the Colbys). Each new edition/franchise of the show was uniquely different from the others; some I never got into (DC, Miami) and others I watched religiously (New York, Atlanta, Beverly Hills), and others I’d keep up with generally (Orange County, Potomac)–my viewing habits for the ones I didn’t watch religiously eventually evolved into simply watching the reunions–which essentially summed up the highs and lows of the season without all the filler.

But I also became interested in watching from a sociological point of view as well; it wasn’t just entertainment, the shows actually provided all kinds of looks into things like group dynamics, how some minor understanding could become blown completely out of proportion, how betrayals of trust are difficult to come back from with a friend, and watching how these women’s evolution was potentially altered, even contaminated, by exposure on camera to a wide audience. Success on the shows might lead to success away from the cameras, but primarily in business more than anything else; these shows were not a jumping off-point into any kind of scripted acting, other than stunt casting on Broadway in shows very late in their run (see: NeNe Leakes, Cinderella; Erika Jayne, Chicago). Bethenny Frankel, seen as the primary success story to arise from the shows (I’ve never cared for her, to be honest), has never managed to translate her popularity as a Housewife into anything successful that wasn’t linked, in some ways, to her original show (her talk show failed, her ripoff of The Apprentice for HBO also failed); and like Trump, her business is really now just licensing the “Skinnygirl” label to other companies marketing products since she sold the alcohol company for a lot of money to Jim Beam years ago.

This interest eventually, as always, evolved into fiction for me. I had always been interested in writing a Scotty book rooted in a season of a Real World-type show filming here; that gradually evolved into my own version of the Housewives shows, The Grande Dames. That eventually worked its way into Royal Street Reveillon, which might be one of my personal favorite Scotty books. I still do watch New York, although I’ve had to back away from Beverly Hills because I cannot stand to see alleged criminal conspirator and ruthless narcissist Erika Girardi on my television; I feel that giving them that extra streaming view somehow condones the fact they didn’t fire her and continue to give her a platform to spin her lies and evade prosecution and restitution.

So, I was very interested when I saw this book talked about on one of the Facebook fan pages I belong to:

As a reward for the procedure the other day, I decided to download this, and in my exhausted state Thursday evening, I started reading it on my Kindle.

If you’re a fan of the shows, you will definitely enjoy this. Essentially, it’s an oral history, with Quinn interviewing not only actual Housewives but also members of production and people from the network about the casts, things that happened on the show, and the controversies. It’s fascinating; production and the network people are always very quick to justify their own questionable behavior in the actions they did or did not take when something bad was happening in front of the cameras (which was to be expected). What was truly interesting to me was the women themselves, and their commentary on their castmates, and the absolute zero fucks they give about lifting the curtain and letting us all see how the sausage was made. What’s particularly weird, though, is you do find yourself wondering–just as you do when you watch the shows–how much of it is real and how much of it is the women either covering their own asses or staying in “character” from the shows; Sherée Whitfield makes absolutely no bones about how much she loathes NeNe Leakes…and actually, nobody spoken to from the Atlanta cast, past or present, says anything nice about her other than she makes good TV. (Likewise, New Jersey castmates are very quick to point out that cast-mates Teresa and Melissa, sisters-in-law, still very much hate each other despite the “reconciliation” for the cameras.)

But again, are they just playing a part still, or are their answers authentic? It’s hard to say. I do think some of the former cast members who are bitter about their experiences (looking at you, Carole Radziwell and Heather Thomsen) are being honest, since they have nothing to lose; the ones who are still on their shows perhaps not so much. (Props to Teresa Guidice, too; she literally is who she appears to be, both on television and in this book–so either she’s very good at playing “Teresa” to the point of staying in character all the time, or she basically is that person. I’m not sure she’s a good enough actress to pull off a performance, though.)

Reading the book was a lot of fun, though, and I think if you are a fan of these shows, you’ll also enjoy it. I greatly enjoyed reading it, and it also reads, as oral histories tend to do, very quickly. Does it actually give the reader an accurate view behind the scenes, or any insight into who these women really are off-camera and in their own lives? I don’t know, and that, I guess, is part of the fun; it’s a very good extension of the shows for fans.

I have recently begun to wonder about whether I should continue to watch these shows. I go back and forth between embracing the enjoyment I get from watching (there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; we should never feel guilty about finding joy in anything in life; one of the producers even says towards the beginning, that guilty pleasure thing pisses me off because it’s always directed at things women enjoy–a man can sit in front of the television all day watching football yet no one calls the NFL a “guilty pleasure”–which is a very good fucking point) and wondering if I am part of a system that glorifies and rewards bad behavior. do the shows demean women, make them look bad and infantile and childish?

Reading this book gave me no answers other than I should continue to enjoy what I enjoy without spending a lot of time questioning or over-analyzing both myself and my motivations. I also don’t care if people judge me for anything I get enjoyment from; after all, I get judged by people for my sexuality and I really don’t give two shits about the people who do that, either.

But if you don’t watch the shows, I wouldn’t suggest or recommend you read this book; none of it will make any sense to you once they start talking about what happened during the seasons and the conflicts/relationships between the women.

You Surround Me

And here we are, on Saturday morning of the LSU-Mississippi game (GEAUX TIGERS!) and lots and lots to do, as always.

I slept in this morning, much later then I have done in a while. I feel rested, though, and not foggy in the least. It’s taking me longer to get over this procedure then I would have thought, actually–I assumed it would be over and the next day I ‘d be my normal self again, but that really wasn’t the case. I guess it has to do with being older, but also going a night without any sleep at all takes a much harsher toll on my body than it would have done ten or twenty years ago. I actually don’t mind getting older–it’s always a surprise that I have gotten this far, really–and I generally don’t think about it all that much until I notice something like this. I used to always bounce back very quickly, but that appears to no longer be the case.

Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. I’ve not lived the healthiest lifestyle for vast portions of my life, and I still don’t eat as healthily as I probably should. But I also tend to think that one should, in the limited time they have on this planet, enjoy themselves as much as possible, and denying myself things that I like and enjoy–well, life provides enough unhappiness and stress and misery on its own without me needing to make myself miserable, right?

As a reward for the procedure, I downloaded a book that I’ve really been enjoying–Dave Quinn’s oral history of the Real Housewives shows, Not All Diamonds and Rosé. I have talked in earlier blogs about my falling out of like for these shows recently; but I started reading this on Wednesday and got totally sucked into it and stayed up later reading every night since then I should have. It’s fascinating, but again, who knows if what they are saying is true, if the women are actually being themselves or if they are maintaining the characters they created on television. But it’s very addicting to have production staff actually commenting on the controversies and things that happened, the dynamics between the women and with production, and behavior on and off camera and the differences. There’s a lot of shade thrown–Carole Radziwell is particularly shady in the chapter on New York, as is Heather Thomsen; Teresa Giudice certainly goes to town on everyone in the chapter on New Jersey; and the production staff really have nothing nice to say about Lisa Vanderpump of Beverly Hills either. What’s interesting to me is how so many hang on to the feuds and fights, so many years later, with resentment and bitterness still; sometimes the behind-the-scenes stuff talked about is more interesting then what actually went on in front of the camera. How much of it is true, how much of is calculated, how much is actually just more promotion and advertising for the shows? Who knows? But it’s a lot of fun to read, and after all the difficulties I’ve been having reading fiction…it’s kind of nice to get sucked into something, even if it is just kind of fluff.

We watched Dune last night, which I also greatly enjoyed. I’m a fan of the books–although on a reread several years ago, I was a lot more critical of the writing then I’ve ever been before–and I even enjoyed the flawed David Lynch film from the 1980’s, which I saw in the theater. This was epic film-making, on the scale of David Lean masterpieces like Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago; I kept thinking as I watched, awed, this would be stunning on a big screen. The scale of the film matched the scale of the book, which the Lynch version didn’t really; this was the film’s ultimate flaw, as was the Syfy mini-series that was produced earlier on this century (although I thought the sequel series, Children of Dune, was much better). It’s also very well cast. I wasn’t sure at first about Timotheé Chalamet, in all honesty. He’s a very attractive young twink of a man, and his career has certainly taken off to major stardom–too boyish for me, but I do concede he is pretty, and he really did a great job; much better at inhabiting the character then earlier actors in the part. They also managed to pick a terrific place to end the movie, cutting the story into two parts: I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it ends with Paul and his mother, the Lady Jessica, escaping the betrayal by their enemies and the closing of the trap that sending the House Atreides to Arrakis set in motion and meeting up with, and being accepted by, the indigenous people of the planet, the Fremen.

I did spend some time yesterday organizing and cleaning and filing and trying to get my shit together; that will continue again today as I finish getting organized so I can focus on getting my book finished. I have to go over the first part of the final edit of #shedeservedit this morning to get it back to my editor; I made the corrections I noticed were needed yesterday afternoon, but I want to read it one more time to be certain I caught everything and/or didn’t miss anything else. I think it’s a good book, and it’s very different from the one before, Bury Me in Shadows, and probably very different from the next thing I am going to write–which I really need to work on this weekend. Time is slipping through my fingers, as it always does, and that deadline is looming just over the horizon and the world keeps turning towards it, bringing it closer and closer.

AIEEEE!!!!!

But my coffee is quite marvelous this morning, I am slowly coming to life, and I think I am going to go read for a moment before I get up and start working on finishing the cleaning/organizing project I started yesterday. So have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will check in on you tomorrow.

Keep on Loving You

My friend Laura often says there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; that we should embrace anything and everything that provides us with entertainment because life is so damned fucking hard that we such take our joys and pleasures wherever we can find them and to hell with feeling guilt about any of it. It’s a wonderful theory that I’ve tried to adapt, but yet….somehow my reading and viewing choices inevitably make me feel guilty about some of them. I mean, when most writers-to-be were reading Faulkner and Hemingway and Barry Hannah and that other one–ah, yes, Raymond Carver–with an eye to Writing The Great American Novel, I was reading Harold Robbins and James Michener and Sidney Sheldon and any number of “trashy” novels.

My tastes have always skewed low, I’m afraid.

Take, for example, the Real Housewives shows.

Yet…something has changed.

I used to watch all the shows religiously, but finally I hated Teresa Guidice so much–and the fact that she kept her job after going to jail–pushed me away from watching New Jersey. I tired of Nene Leakes and her antics, so put Atlanta on the back burner; never watched Dallas or started Salt Lake City, and while I enjoyed Potomac, never could seem to remind myself to watch. I had eventually gotten to the point where I was only watching two: New York and Beverly Hills, but these current seasons of each have me wondering why do I still bother?

I bailed on the previous season of Beverly Hills before it finished–I had little to no interest in watching Brandi Glanville’s desperate attempt to gain relevance and get back on the show by slandering Denise Richards, and watching the rest of the cast gleefully torturing Ms. Richards over something that could have actually affected her custody struggle with her insane ex, Charlie Sheen was really not the kind of trash television I enjoy watching. I also really started hating Lisa Rinna, whom I’d always enjoyed before, to the point where all I want to do when I see her face is change the channel–let alone how grating the sound of her voice has become.

And while I did watch New York all the way to its bitter end last season, I found myself not really caring about their return this season, and yes, it took me awhile to get interested in even giving them another shot. I was actually of the mindset that, with all the things going on in the world and the pandemic and all, giving these women any more of my time was a waste, and have begun to think that the entire idea of these shows has run its course. In a time where a pandemic is killing people, anti-vaxxer ignorance is making things worse, and the country is being ripped apart over a significant part of the nation’s inability to look beyond themselves and have empathy for people being systemically oppressed…it’s hard to shut that reality off and enjoy the “reality” of spoiled, privileged women wasting their lives arguing over petty bullshit–particularly ones that are so self-absorbed to such a high level of narcissism that it really begs, if not for them to be institutionalized, but at the very least kept away from other human beings for the protection of society as a whole.

And that bothers me. Why has my opinion about these shows changed so dramatically? Is it the pandemic and all the racial reckoning we’ve been dealing with as a country and as a society? Or have I simply outgrown them?

It’s also occurred to me since I wrote about them in a (very thinly) veiled way in my last Scotty book–renaming the series The Grande Dames–that I can really no longer justify watching anymore. I definitely try to subscribe to Laura’s mentality about guilty pleasures, but as I have watched this season’s episodes of both shows, I find myself bored and not enjoying them so much. All shows tend to have a natural tendency to become less interesting the longer they run, and reality shows are no different from their scripted brothers and sisters. These shows are rather like soaps–that comparison has been made before by a lot of television and cultural critics (including the horrible Camille Paglia, which proves the old adage about stopped clocks)–which is why soaps regularly wrote characters out and brought in new ones to try to stay relevant and fresh. The night time soaps eventually ran out of steam–popular characters couldn’t be let go, and how do you keep the villains and heroes fresh when they continually have to make the same mistakes, over and over again, as the stories eventually end up repeating themselves?

I do think that’s what is happening, in my mind, with the Real Housewives…they’ve run their course, the long-running characters’ awful behavior and mistakes get repeated, over and over again, with every new cast member, and it’s hard to watch people behaving the same way for decades and never really learning and growing from the experiences. I guess that isn’t why people watch these shows–for character growth and development–the key to their popularity is how awful the women actually are, and how lacking in self-awareness…but having spent most of my adulthood shedding toxic people from my life as soon they make their toxicity known, it’s weird to watch shows for years about people who are primarily toxic at their core, with few, if any, redeeming qualities. But a show about a bunch of lovely women with money who are decent and do good things with their money wouldn’t be interesting to watch, either. It’s the conflict we watch for, I suppose, and the bad behavior, and deciding who’s right and who’s wrong and being entertained. And sometimes these shows are painful to watch as they go to really dark places occasionally–as I was watching New York yesterday, I found myself thinking about one character–who is clearly in a very bad place and when she drinks too much she blacks out and her behavior is horrifying–and wondering why no one in production, or no one else in the cast, is stepping up and trying to get her the help she so obviously needs?

But this out-of-control behavior drives ratings, I suppose, and that leads to the next question, is it okay to watch these women, who hunger for fame and attention, debase themselves and allow themselves to be debased for our entertainment?

I think that is what is driving my current discomfort with watching–and also driving why I am questioning having ever started watching them in the first place.

I also suppose as long as I continue to watch I can’t really criticize the shows, but I suppose I can critique them as well as the reasons why I watch them.

I also have a real problem with this season’s Beverly Hills primary story; the Erica Girardi/Erika Jayne “was she complicit in her husband’s fraud” story, playing out in real life as we watch how it played out when the story first broke…doesn’t sit well with me. Her decision to continue being the cold-hearted snake she plays on the show on social media–with not a bit of concern for the victims of her husband’s fraud; instead claiming martyrdom/victimhood for herself–will inevitably turn up in court when it comes to that; I cannot imagine what the fuck her lawyers are thinking letting her still have access to her own social media or not advising her to keep her fucking mouth shut while in front of the cameras is, at the very least, legal malpractice. If she even showed the least, smallest bit of concern for her husband’s victims…as opposed to making it all about her and what she’s “lost” (sorry your Sugar Daddy can’t steal more money to buy you jewels with)…I could be sympathetic….but yeah, go fuck yourself, grifter.

But given the state of our society and culture, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the grifting Girardis get away with their crimes. But if there’s no reckoning of any kind for her, and she remains on the show…I won’t be watching in the future.

At least the Giudices on New Jersey were white collar criminals who just didn’t pay their taxes. The Girardis–and Jen Shah on Salt Lake City–belong behind bars.

And maybe–maybe it’s time we stopped celebrated bad people behaving badly on television. I don’t know. But I am terribly disappointed with the producers for seeing ratings, instead of suffering. IMAGINE being one of Tom Girardi’s victims and watching her play victim? It turns MY stomach, and I am not one of their victims.

I don’t know. Maybe I can find joy in these shows again. But for now…I really don’t see how I can justify watching another season of either.

So Emotional

And just like that, Our Hero is sixty.

And, as I suspected, it doesn’t feel different; just another day.

But it IS my birthday, I somehow made it to sixty, and I am taking the weekend OFF.

Oh, I am sure I won’t be a complete and total slug; I really need to do the dishes (leaking dishwasher), and I have to take Paul to pick up his glasses later today, and also we have to go out to Metairie to get my deep dish pizza from That’s Amore–but other than that, I am really hoping to not leave the house this weekend other than to go to the gym briefly once or twice. I want to finish reading the book I am reading and at least one other; I have some organizing and cleaning to do, but….that’s the sort of thing I like doing. I also like writing; so I am probably going to do some of that this weekend as well. But I am not holding myself to anything; I am just going to spend this weekend drifting a bit from thing to thing, and if I get some things that need to be done done, so be it; if I don’t, well, that’t what next week’s stay-cation is for. I don’t have to work from Wednesday thru Monday, inclusive; if I can’t use that time to get a shit ton finished there’s really not much hope for me, is there?

I am also hoping to get even more reading done next week as well.

We’ll see how ambitious I actually am, won’t we?

But it’s nice. I didn’t think I would wake up to heavenly hosts singing “Alleluia”, the clouds parting and the sun shining directly on me or any such nonsensical things. I’ve never been one to be deeply into my birthday; sure, when I was a kid we celebrated and I had cake and got presents, but I don’t really remember it being that big of a thing…and I’ve carried that into my adulthood. I mean, sure, it’s nice to have a day that in theory is all about me (which should be every day, really–I AM a Leo, after all), but I also have that weird “I want attention/I hate attention” thing going on as well. It’s seriously a wonder that I am as mentally stable as I am–which is a very low bar–but my mind and my personality and ego and id and everything are always, it seems, at loggerheads with each other; all those voices in my head making me feel a little bit on the unstable side.

I also need to stop indulging myself for my birthday. Yes, I am sixty, and yes, I generally don’t treat myself to anything other than some books usually, but this year I got a new computer, a new Fitbit, a new phone, new shoes, books, a new toaster, a new coffee grinder, and a new atomizer for the kitchen. Clearly, I more than made up for past lean years (and dipped into the budget for future ones) already; but it’s also fine, you know. I don’t mind indulging myself by any means; the problem is stopping once I’ve started. I always feel like I should treat myself, all the time; all day every day, frankly, and so the issue is training myself to say no, you don’t really need that, do you? And when you look at things in terms of need vs. want, you find that there really is little that you actually need.

I got caught up on my Real Housewives shows yesterday while making condom packs, and yes, there definitely needs to be an entirely different, Real Housewives-dedicated post at some point. I am getting to the point where I don’t really want to watch them that much anymore, and it’s more from habit now than any sense of enjoyment; like it’s a duty to watch, the way I watched Dynasty all the way to the bitter end, UFO encounters and all. I’ve already paired down from a high of watching every one of the franchises to cutting back to simply the New York and Beverly Hills franchises, but it’s becoming very, very difficult to watch even those two. Paul and I watched this week’s episode of Titans last night as well–which is going in a weird direction this season, but I am here for it–not the least reason of which is Brendan Thwaites, who plays my favorite comic hero Nightwing, is smoking hot. SPOILER: I hate that they killed off super-hot Alan Ritchman and Hawk, but he’s playing the lead in Amazon’s Jack Reacher, and I will say I will be watching every episode of that. He really looks like Reacher, even if at 6’3 he’s a few inches short for the part, but I don’t think those three inches will make that big of a difference on camera.

Sixty. It does take some mental gymnastics to wrap my brain around it. I don’t feel any different–as always on a birthday–and of course, the aches and pains and wearing down of my body has been pretty regular over the last ten years; regular and gradual. I am going to, once the gym renovations have been completed, dive hard into weight lifting again. It occurred to me the other day that, sore and muscles tired from the workout of the day before, that I am going to always be sore and achy anyway; I might as well feel that way from pushing my body to its limits rather than just from every day life. I do want to lose some weight, which may mean changing my eating habits at long last (I didn’t have to for so long that it will be a severe and deeply painful adjustment) but I am going to indulge myself this weekend with the deep dish pizza and after that, I am going to try to start cutting back on fat content and simple carbohydrates–no more snack foods; a sad farewell to chips and Cheese Puffs and Toast Chee peanut butter and cheese crackers–and focus on more health foods. I need more fiber in my diet, and more greens, and less garbage. Heavy sigh. I am dreading this retraining, but it’s a necessary one and it would be great to get down to 200 pounds, and possibly even shoot for 190 again (although I do think that would be too lean for my frame, body type, and current muscularity). I was down to 203 earlier this year, but am now back up to 212, and this shall not stand–way way too easy to get back up to over 220 and I will NOT allow that again.

I don’t have anything witty or profound to say about turning sixty; it’s really nothing more than a testament to my weird survivor abilities–which I’ve done absolutely nothing to develop other than simply waking up every morning. I think that’s partly why I have such a mental block about celebrating birthdays, really–it seems a bit morbid to me; “yay, I’m still alive! Let’s party!” It’s not like I’ve been super-careful or anything; but somehow I survived and witnessed and made it through the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and am now doing the same–so far–with the COVID one. I just seem to go on somehow; there’s really no rhyme or reason to it. I’ve seen a lot change over the course of my sixty years–we live in a completely different world than the one I was born into and raised in–and I’ve seen a lot of things I wished I hadn’t, lived through a bunch of things I’d certainly prefer not to experience ever again in however many (or few) years I have left. I have no secrets to life or how to live, not any deep knowledge or wisdom to share; as I said, I just endure and somehow keep surviving from year to year.

I sure as hell never thought I’d last this long.

And on that note, tis time to get cleaned up and prepare for my short little outing for the day. I will be blogging over the course of this weekend, as always, and periodically checking in on social media (when I get bored), but for the most part, am not planning on being on-line much for this weekend; I’m due a break from it all, methinks, and why not now?

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Got to Be Real

Sixty Eve!

Tis the last day of my fifties and it’s also a work-at-home day. I may go to the gym later–the jury remains out on that one for now–but I have data to enter and condom packs to stuff and television shows to catch up on while I stuff the condom packs and so…yeah. A full day for the last of my fifties, methinks. Tomorrow I mostly want to just hang out around the house and be a slug and read all day–I’ll probably straighten and organize too, it’s a compulsion–but I really want to just finish reading my book and start the next one. Over the course of the weekend, I’ll get other things done, of course–but tomorrow–other than the dash out to Metairie to get my deep dish pizza–I intend to literally be nothing more than a slug of the worst kind around here.

I may even allow myself a second Coke.

That’s me, living large on my sixtieth birthday.

I was actually looking at my submissions spreadsheet yesterday (mainly to make sure my list of published stories for the next collection was correct), and imagine my surprise to see I haven’t submitted much this year–one short story in January that was rejected–and prior to that, it’s been well over a year since I sent out any short stories for submissions. I have written–and started–any number of short stories in the mean time; but my, how time does fly when you really aren’t paying attention. I would have sworn those stories were sold this past year, but they came OUT this year; big difference, really.

But–it looks like I have about ten or so stories published that weren’t included in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, so I am about half-way there for my second collection–and there are some unpublished ones I can also include in the new collection, which is pretty awesome.

Our gym is doing renovations, and is also asking for proof of vaccination for entry–which I deeply appreciate–but the renovations make working out a bit of a challenge. They’re putting in, among other things, a new floor and getting new equipment for the weight room, so all the current equipment is shoved into the room on the first floor where the spin classes are….and it’s a very tight fit. Every open space that is not the weight room floor on the first floor has equipment crammed into it; I appreciate them staying open for the renovation but at the same time…it definitely makes it more difficult to get the workout in, and you are crammed into much tighter space with strangers. I walked over there last night after work (Christ, the humidity was intense) and just dashed through my upper body workout–no stretching–and got out as quickly as humanly possible. I feel good for going–it would have been easy to decide not to–and this morning I feel a bit tight in places, so the workout worked, which was incredibly cool.

But my God, was I overheated and drenched in sweat when I got home!

I also got a new Fitbit; this isn’t out of some insane desire to track my fitness and my steps and my day-to-day activity; having something that monitors this for our health insurance is in my best interests, and after my last Fotbit gave up the ghost, I just started using the Apple Heart program on my phone…but it doesn’t sync with my health insurance website, etc etc etc., and a Fitbit worked remarkably well back when I had one a gazillion years ago–so, hello sixtieth birthday present! (I told you I was leaning into this sixty thing.) So, my sixtieth birthday gifts to myself thus far include a new computer, a new phone, a new Fitbit, a new aromatherapy atomizer for the kitchen, new shoes, and (of course) a shit ton of new books. Today I have a lot of things to do around the house in addition to working-at-home duties (the dishwasher is leaking, so I have to do them all by hand; and of course, the bed linens are done every Thursday), and I also have to box up my old computer so I can ship it back to Apple for recycling. Tomorrow, being the birthday itself, I plan on just hanging out around the house and reading. I don’t think I will leave the house other than going out to Metairie to get my deep-dish Chicago style pizza (and the mail, and Costco to pick up Paul’s new glasses), but no gym, no work, no being on-line (other than trying to keep up with birthday wishes on Facebook, a time consuming, if delightful, exercise)…and no concerns about getting any writing or editing done. I had thought about making it a completely free weekend, frankly–but i know myself too well to think I won’t be antsy and checking my emails and social media accounts and so forth. I think I’ll most likely simply structure my days so that I handle all of the stuff I want to do by a certain time in the afternoon before adjourning to my easy chair for reading. I want to finish The Other Black Girl so I can move on to The Turnout–after which I will most likely dive into either A Beautiful Crime or Yes Daddy; to be determined….and again I need to start pruning the books. I am going to likely take at least one day of next weeks Boucher-vacation to work on cleaning out the attic…and at some point I’m going to have to start working on the storage unit…but I’ll cross that terrifying bridge when I come to it.

And while I pack condoms today I will watch the season finale of Superman and Lois, as well as getting caught up on my Real Housewives shows, which I am not really enjoying this season as much as past ones…not sure what that’s about, but it might be worthy of its own post once I get that figured out.

And on that note, I have condoms to pack and data to enter. Tomorrow I will check in for the Big (?) Day. Have a lovely Sixty Eve, Constant Reader!

When I Grow Up

Saturday morning and yesterday was lovely, as we slowly begin counting down the last days of my fifties. Hurray!

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I had my spa day (in full transparency, that means I got a back wax) which I enjoyed (at some point in time I will discuss how I feel about body hair, particularly that which grows on one’s back), got my prescription, got Scooter’s insulin syringes, got the mail, made groceries, and got phô (AT LAST), and the phô (from Lilly’s Cafe on Magazine) was truly magnificent. I got home around two thirty; it was a weird weather day in New Orleans, where the sun was shining in parts of the city and there was a downpour in others, along with thunder and lightning; which enabled me to experience all the vagaries of a summer day’s weather in the city in August over the course of two hours. After the errands were completed and my phô bowl was empty, I spent the rest of the day relaxing and organizing and cleaning–yes, yes, I know, but organizing and cleaning (like the LSU 2019 football season) is my happy place. I wound up not reading much, nor doing any writing, but I managed to get a lot done. I am still not as organized as I would like to be, as I think I should be, but I have three more days without work pressure to get through, and so while I am going to spend some time writing and reading over the next three days, I also want to finish getting organized. I’ve been so scattered and disorganized for so long–really, since the Great Data Disaster of 2018–that getting that particular act together has been enormously helpful, and I think if I actually can go ahead and get completely organized, that will make my getting everything done that I need to get done finished that much easier.

I am going to spend some time this morning with The Other Black Girl. I have to get the mail today–I am expecting some things–after which I’m planning on braving the West Bank to do some box store shopping (the traffic over there is always horrible, even on the best of days; and now that I am thinking about it some more, perhaps I should just wait and go on Monday; it’s not pressing. I can just get the mail today, really, and pick up a few things at the corner Walgreens–which I now think might be the best option? We’ll see how I feel).

But I got all my Chlorine research organized–I went through my journal (the most recent one) last night and marked the pages where I brainstormed the book; I need to do that to several more of the last ones, actually)–and I also have a secret project which I look forward to telling you about, Constant Reader; I know it’s disappointing on some levels, but I am having to push writing the next Scotty, Mississippi River Mischief, to the first quarter of next year. I also managed to get some other things organized; I need to do something about these boxes of files under my desk for one thing, and in looking through the stuff in my filing cabinet, I also realized that a lot of the stuff in there could be shifted into boxes and moved up into the attic. I do have the boxes….and I am also thinking it may be time to do another book purge, in order to drop off some boxes on this coming Thursday to the library sale.

In other words, I am looking forward to a typical Saturday around the Lost Apartment. I do need to get to the gym today (I didn’t go yesterday) and will be going again on Monday rather than Sunday; but I also have to get really started on the edits of #shedeservedit if I am going to get those finished by the end of the month. The fact that I have absolutely no desire to do it is of course indicative of how much I need to do it and how much I will actually enjoy doing it once I get started going on them. I also need to finish the second draft of “The Sound of Snow Falling”, and what better time to do that than this weekend? I love the new computer and it’s so much easier to work on than the old one was; but I best be using the hell out of it now that I spent the money on it. I’m still a bit in awe of it–the picture quality is so good it’s like having another television for the kitchen (I went ahead and watched the latest episode of Ted Lasso on here last night while Paul worked on a grant–I know, but the great thing about Ted Lasso is rewatching isn’t an ordeal, and this last episode, a Christmas episode airing in August, was just absolutely perfect and made me tear up several times as well as laugh out loud; I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to do a Christmas episode/movie/book of any kind any more without it being heavy-handed and cheesy…but I need to stop ever doubting Ted Lasso; the show is always a joy and those twenty Emmy nominations, especially those for the cast, are extremely well-deserved)–and the sound and picture is amazing. That means I can watch football games in here this fall while cleaning and/or doing other things…which is heavenly.

And yes I am well aware of the fact that the honeymoon period will end soon….but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the fuck out of it while it’s still happening.

I also got caught up on my Real Housewives watching. I had cut back to just watching the two I started with (New York and Beverly Hills), but these aren’t good seasons for either; and just watched the Erika Jayne/Girardi divorce/criminal investigation/civil suits play out makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t have much sympathy for either her or her husband–you can deny all you want to, but settlement money for victims disappearing means it went somewhere, and one thing so many people in this country don’t understand is you can still be punished for profiting from a crime even if you didn’t know you were profiting from a crime. I don’t see how she thinks she can escape financial liability–possibly a sympathetic judge and jury would spare her from jail time–but it’s difficult to watch her excuses and her self-pity; she has no tears or empathy for her husband’s victims. Rather, it’s all about her and what she’s going through; and frankly, every time she cries me me me me I think to myself lock this bitch up and throw away the key. So, between the snooze-fest that is this seasons New York and the real life criminality being exposed on Beverly Hills–and being coddled–might have me finally cutting the cord with these two shows. I have no desire to watch Dallas, but have heard good things about both Potomac and Salt Lake City (which also is filming during the real-life criminal exposure of a cast member)…but I also kind of wonder if these shows haven’t already run their course? Society and the culture have experienced a significant shift over the last four years….and maybe the time for shows like this is past.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and spend some more time with The Other Black Girl, which is truly terrific. Have a lovely August Saturday, Constant Reader–and I will check in with you tomorrow, if not later.

My My My

Thursday and just got home from the hideous experience of having bloodwork done. I am not exactly sure when precisely I turned into such a delicate goddamned flower, but every time now I have blood drawn I get a gnarly-looking bruise on the spot where the needle went into my arm. Back in the day when my veins used to roll and they had to dig to get the needle in (always a most unpleasant experience) it made sense that afterwards I looked like I’d been hooked up to a dialysis machine. Now the needle goes straight in, without any pain, and yet I still develop a particularly nasty bruise.

Sigh. The bruise from last week’s blood draw just finally went away, and now I am going to have a new one. Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well, and so it goes.

But at least NOW I can have coffee. I had to fast for this, especially since my quarterly bloodwork (for my PrEP prescription) had shown high glucose levels (I always have them done after I’ve had lunch as fasting is not required SURPRISE–blood glucose is high after I eat. IMAGINE THAT) so I definitely need to have a diabetes test run (better safe than sorry, right)… and I have to confess rather shame-facedly that the last time I had fasting bloodwork done I had coffee before having it done. Yes, Bad Greg, bad Greg, bad Greg indeed.

Today is yet another exciting day of condom packing and doing some quality assurance reviews of paperwork from work. I will naturally get caught up on Superman and Lois today as well as the two franchises of Real Housewives I am still watching (New York and Beverly Hills, although it’s more of a habit to watch these than anything else, really) and maybe–just maybe–there will be time for a movie as well. Not sure what that might be, but there are so many options anymore! I am also hopeful that there will be time for me to work on Chlorine and get some time in with Razorblade Tears. Paul is going to bring home dinner with him tonight–anniversary meal, from Hoshun (I’ve been wanting lo mein lately)–and then I guess we’ll either figure out what we’re going to watch next (note to self: find out if he wants to keep watching Loki, because if not, I can watch it alone) or he’ll do some work. I also need to bag up some more beads to drop off for ARC (honestly, we literally have beads every fucking where) and I’d like to get some more books culled so I can take them to the library sale on Saturday.

I wrote about 1500 words on Chapter Two of Chlorine yesterday; it wasn’t easy and rather like pulling teeth, actually, so I kind of would like to revisit (not reread; I can just page through it at random to get a feel for tone and voice) James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, which is one of my favorite books of all time; I feel like in this chapter I am being too wordy, which is always a problem for me with my writing–I over-explain, I tend to have long long sentences connected by and, I often fuck up the rhythm of the words, which greatly affects and impacts the voice and tone of the story. The problem with Chlorine is there’s a lot of backstory–and since it’s Hollywood during the dying days of the studio system–what is artifice? What is real? What is rumor? I also have the ability to mention actual stars of the period–even if they aren’t in the book itself, but can be mentioned in passing, which is a lot of fun–I wrote something yesterday about a female star claiming she was “up there with Hepburn, Crawford, Davis, Garbo; you can say Karla and everyone knows who you mean.” (And yes, I just realized that the Garbo-based character in The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann was also named Karla; although it did not even subconsciously affect my naming of this character–Karla Weiss the half-American, half-German Jewish actress who emigrated to the US to become a star immediately was someone I created way back in 1996, inspired entirely by a black-and-white photograph of a friend; I looked at the picture and invented Karla Weiss and her backstory and it’s been in the back of my mind for the last twenty-five years; she fits in here–and while I originally had her winding up in New Orleans and becoming a recluse for a Chanse or Scotty story, it could still work, I suppose; but she would be WAY too old unless I went back and set that case years ago in the past, which could also work….see how these wormholes form for me?)

Then again, who knows? I could open up the document and next thing you know words are flowing from my fingers like water from a spigot.

This, by the way, is why writers drink.

That said, I did pick up some mixers at the grocery store on the way home–grapefruit juice and margarita mix, as well as a salt thing for the rim of the glass–and am really looking forward to getting some Patrón on the next Costco run. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to continue trying to perfect the dirty vodka martini–but the last one turned out so terribly that I am quite literally afraid to try again. Perhaps I should get some gin as well? Hmmmm. Oh, Costco and your inexpensive liquor.

And on that note, it’s about time for me to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I’ll chat with you again tomorrow!

a

Love in the First Degree

THURSDAY!

It’s lovely to be working at home this morning–I do have my bi-annual physical with my brand new primary care doctor today (which means prescription refills, HUZZAH), but other than that, I am planning on being ensconced in my easy chair making condom packs for most of today, while I get caught up on shows I am watching (Real Housewives, Superman and Lois) and then possibly moving on to a 1970’s movie–either a return to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, or the 80’s Teen Film Festival (which inevitably is disappointing, as the movies tend to not age particularly well…I am still reeling from rewatching Class, with Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy; although it would make for a good essay about how society has changed since those films were made…).

Because I don’t already have enough to write.

I slept incredibly well last night, and even slept in a bit. I’m a bit groggy this morning (Groggy GreggOly) as a result, but my coffee is quite marvelous and it seems to be doing the trick. The Lost Apartment is the disaster area it always seems to be on Thursday mornings–heavy sigh–and so after i get my condom packing done, I’ll have to do some cleaning around here while I am doing my writing tonight. We finished Happy Endings last night–the final six or so episodes of the final season really weren’t very good, alas–and will probably focus on finishing HIgh Seas before moving on to something new–Young Royals, perhaps, or an Italian show Paul was interested in (I need to see if he wants to finish watching Loki, because if he doesn’t I know what I’ll be bingeing while condom packing tomorrow–we’ve also not watched any of the Marvel shows on Disney Plus, and we probably should give them a whirl; although some borderline homophobic comments by one of the leads in Falcon and The Winter Soldier kind of killed off any interest I may have had in that show)–and of course, some of our favorites (Ted Lasso, Outer Banks) are also coming back soon.

I also want to read S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears this weekend, so I can move on to the next book on the list, The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris–my reading has fallen off so dramatically, I really need to get back on that horse and start riding again.

But I also have to get organized, which is apparently an on-going struggle, my own personal Vietnam, as it were. One would think by now I’d have kinda-sorta gotten used to the 6 o’clock alarm when it rings three mornings per week, and kinda-sorta adjusted my life around that, but really haven’t. Sometime next month my schedule is going to change again–which is going to require readjusting from what I’ve never adjusted to something new; it will also mean having to get up relatively early still to go to the gym so I can keep my workout routine going–Ill be going in later on Tuesdays–10 instead of 7:30–but I won’t be getting off work until 7 pm, which is too late to go to the gym Tuesday nights after. Heavy sigh.

And I need to get going on Chapter Two of Chlorine. I think I need to make a list of things I need to do for the weekend and start, as always, checking things off. In another note, I was cleaning out my spiral notebook yesterday and discovered that, as I tore the two to-do lists out of it, that I had done almost everything on both of them (even though I never crossed them off). Progress, of a sort, I guess. (Note to self: you need to get a new notebook too).

I also am at that time where I can upgrade my phone; a trip to the AT&T store is no doubt in order. It did, however, occur to me yesterday that iPhones probably can no longer accommodate plug in head-phones, which will make a difference for me. I sure as hell don’t want to pay $300 for ear buds I will lose rather quickly… but on the other hand, I have also managed to have iPhones now for twelve years without breaking or losing one, so maybe I am mature enough (ha ha ha ha) to have those ear bud things without the possibility of losing them and having to replace them for a ridiculous amount of money. I don’t know. We shall see what they say when I stop into the store. Fortunately, there’s one a few blocks away, and I can go there on my way to Office Max to get a new spiral notebook.

The excitement around here truly never stops, does it?

August

And, once again, it is my birthday. 59, and the official start of my sixtieth year; my fifties are now in the rear view mirror. It’s so strange. I don’t think I ever believed I would make it this far–I certainly didn’t during the plague years, when I just assumed I would inevitably contract HIV and begin the slow agonizing descent to death I had watched so many others experience. It’s weird how much the world has changed since when I was a little boy reading my middle-grade mysteries and dreaming of someday becoming a writer like Carolyn Keene or Franklin W. Dixon (little did I know at the time that neither was a real person and a number of different writers had written the books I was so addicted to). I’ve been watching a lot of 1970’s movies lately during my condom packing work-at-home days, and even that seems like the distant past…although it kind of was; 1979 was over forty years ago.

How terrifying that thought is!

I’ve never minded getting older; frankly, there were times in my life when I was relatively certain I wasn’t going to live to a ripe old age. So every birthday, in some ways, feels like a triumph of sorts. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s–before the development of the “cocktail”, infection and death seemed inevitable to me, and I became sort of resigned to it. That feeling of inevitability, I think, was part of what finally pushed me into pursuing my writing dream seriously–I never knew how much time I had, and I didn’t want to die regretting never having put any serious effort into it. It seems strange to be oddly grateful to a plague for pushing me to pursue my dreams…and yes, if I had to choose between being pushed to chase my writing dreams or having all those who died back, I would always choose having them live; the world would be a better place had they had more time. I don’t think I will ever stop grieving for the dead, for the lives unnecessarily lost, and as this more recent pandemic has reminded me, the other plague is yet  another source for my PTSD.

My birthday has ceased to have any meaning for me, other than as simply a marker of getting older. With every year the value of my birthday, my special day, has declined and decreased. I always say that my parents never made a big deal out of my birthday, and that’s both untrue and unfair–the older I get, the more fair I try to be with my parents–they were both very very young when I was a child, and both worked full time; and my father was also going to school at night. They never allowed my birthday to pass without there being cake and presents, but it wasn’t like it was ever like a whole day of celebratory; it was my birthday and it needed to be acknowledged and celebrated, but it wasn’t like they could take a day off and ignore their other obligations. As I got older my birthday inevitably was disappointing for me; my parents and sister obviously cared about it, but no one else seemed to, and there was a point when I realized that if I wasn’t the one making plans for my birthday, no one else would do it. I wanted my birthday to be a bigger deal, and to celebrate it, but my friends never seemed to care and many often simply blew it off. That kind of hurt, actually, and I think it was sometime in my mid-twenties that I finally decided to stop setting myself up for being hurt and disappointed and to put my birthday into its proper perspective: it wasn’t a special day, it wasn’t anything worth being disappointed over, and I made up my mind that I would never make a big deal of my birthday ever again–nor would I allow anyone else to do so. I would simply always take the day off from work, and do whatever it was I wanted to do.

Of course, it was my thirty-third birthday when I came to New Orleans and my life changed forever; hard to believe that was twenty-six years ago that I finally found my place, the city where I belonged and where I could have the life I wanted and my dreams would come true for me. My love affair with this crazy, wild, madcap, frustrating, infuriating but wonderful city began on my thirty-third birthday, which remains one the best birthday of my life thus far–and I can’t see how any other birthday could inevitably be better than that one. That’s another reason to not make a big deal out of my birthday, really; my thirty-third (and my forty-fourth) set the bar so high for wonderful birthdays that I never want to try to top those. Frankly, I don’t see how I ever could, really.

Last evening, when I got home from work I was very tired and worn out. Usually Wednesday is my work from home day, where I spend the afternoon making condom packs and watching movies. Thursdays I got into the office and make kits for the syringe access program on Fridays; but since this week my birthday fell on a Thursday and I intended to keep up my tradition of not working on my birthday, I went into the office yesterday and spent between six and seven hours making the kits. I was dog tired when I was finished; you can’t do it sitting down, so I was on my feet the entire time, other than short breaks to have something to drink or to have my lunch. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up a few things and rolled into the Lost Apartment, exhausted and tired and hot and sweaty….and then began unpacking my backpack, only to discover that my prescriptions, which I’d picked up on my way into the office, had been left behind at the office because I hadn’t gone back to my desk before leaving. This put me into a funk–I was already tired and bitchy, and while I know intellectually that I could probably go a day or two without my blood pressure medicine–the last of the previous refill was taken this morning–I really didn’t like the idea of going three days in a row without taking it. SO, grumble grumble grumble, my plans for today–essentially, not going on line, not dealing with emails, not doing any work of any kind while just being a slob (no shaving, no shower) and just throwing on sweats and finishing Lovecraft Country while also getting caught up on my Real Housewives shows was not to be; I was going to have to get in the car and go to the office; and my sanctuary day at home of not going out in public was going to be ruined. But as I sat and grumbled to myself while Scooter purred in my lap and I rewatched the LSU-Texas game from last season while playing Bubble Pop on my iPad, I realized: your birthday is an arbitrary day, really, and it doesn’t matter WHAT day you celebrate it. So, go by the office tomorrow; pick up the mail and go make groceries and pay the bills and do all the things you were planning to do on Friday, and make FRIDAY your hermit-away-from-the-world day.

So, that’s what I am going to do. I am going to spend the morning straightening things up around here, deciding what I want to make for my birthday dinner, trying to clean out the inevitable mass of emails in my inbox, and run those errands while trying to keep a positive face on the day. I may not get to everything I probably should–hey, it’s my birthday–but I will go ahead and make a good faith effort, and at least I don’t have to worry about the day job today.

And on that note, I’m going to get a second cup of coffee and start making some casual progress on things through the day–and I am still going to try to catch up on the Housewives  as well as spend some time in Lovecraft Country.

Have a love day, everyone.

What Have I Done to Deserve This?

It’s Saturday, and how lovely that feeling is. I am going to try to avoid social media as well as email interactions this weekend, as I want to be productive and I really don’t need any help with getting distracted. I was a condom packing machine yesterday, and Scooter was happily cuddled up to my feet as I had my lap desk and was working. I finally came up with the working system for maximum efficiency, and ultimately I was able to double my productivity in the same amount of time, which was quite impressive. It had been bothering me that I wasn’t as fast at home as I was at the office–or rather, in my old office on Frenchmen Street–but I also didn’t have the proper set-up until yesterday. I also had taken some time on Thursday to fold inserts, which also sped up my time yesterday. I also watched this week’s Real Housewives episodes, rewatched “The Bells” episode of Game of Thrones season eight (it’s quite a spectacle; more on that later) and then Dangerous Liaisons and The Maltese Falcon on the TCM menu on HBO MAX (which I love; there’s so much excellent film on that menu–things I want to rewatch and things I’ve always wanted to see). After dinner we finished off watching Into the Night, which had a lovely cliffhanger, and then started a Mexican Netflix drama, Control Z, which is quite intense. I do have to run an errand today, and I do have to spend some time cleaning out my email inbox–it’s ridiculously out of control again (doesn’t take long!)–and then I am going to reread Bury Me in Shadows and make notes on what to keep and what has to change. I’d also like to spend some time with “A Holler Full of Kudzu,” but there’s only so much time in one day and I only have so much attention span, really.

It’s gloomy and overcast out there this morning; we’re expecting rain off and on for most of the weekend because of now-Hurricane Hannah. I slept fairly decently most of the night, but still woke up feeling a little tired this morning. As much as I would like to be lazy for the day–and really, rereading a manuscript is the epitome of lazy, since I’ll be doing it in my easy chair–but it’s quite interesting and sort of amazing how much of a difference a good night’s sleep makes in my productivity when it comes to writing. The more tired I am, the more snappish I become–so it’s always a good idea to not be on social media or answer emails, as little things really get under my skin when I’m in that condition–but hopefully that won’t be an issue this evening. We shall see, I suppose.

I’m not really sure why I got the bug in my ear to rewatch that episode of Game of Thrones–it’s really amazing, given what a cultural phenomenon the show was while it was airing, how little anyone talks about it anymore. I think this is primarily due to the enormous disappointment the majority of viewers felt with its conclusion, and I certainly can’t disagree with those disappointed feelings. I, too, wasn’t terribly pleased with how the show ended, but at the same time, I wasn’t expected this world–which mirrored actual history with all its gore and good-doesn’t-always-win and evil-sometimes-goes-unpunished reality–to come to a happy ending; although Sansa did wind up as Queen of the North, so at least there’s some sense of justice in that, after everything she went through. And with her red hair, and all the suffering she endured, an argument could be made that she was sort of based on Queen Elizabeth I–who against incredible odds and twenty-five years of living in the shadow of the executioner–finally climbed to the throne. But I want to talk more about “The Bells” and the sack of King’s Landing–which was another episode that had fans disappointed and outraged. I was one of the few fans who was all about the city being destroyed; and I was also really pleased that they showed it from the ground for the most part–with Daenarys and Drogon only seen from below as the city burns and people die. It was exactly how I imagined the sacking of cities throughout history to look–rape and murder, blood in the streets, pillaging, hysterical terrified crowds running for their lives and praying for sanctuary as their world collapses around them. Conquerers never showed mercy; the concept everyone was hoping for that to happen once the bells were rung is very modern. Cities have historically been subject to such sackings throughout history; maybe not with a dragon involved, but read accounts of the many times Rome fell, or the fall of Constantinople–this wasn’t a modern world by any means, and modern concepts of justice and mercy weren’t in play. Cersei herself said it in Season One: “when you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.” She played, she died, and she took her capital city with her. Power politics in medieval history–the closest proximation to the world of Game of Thrones–were bloody and cruel and merciless, and the Popes and the Church were just as involved and as ruthless as any king or emperor. Arya even alluded to this when she was wearing the face of Walder Frey and wiping out his entire house: “You didn’t kill all of the Starks. You should have ripped them out, root and stem. Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.” Ergo–if you don’t kill all of your enemies, you have no one but yourself to blame when they kill you.

Dangerous Liaisons is a great movie, and a great story as well. When the film came out, I bought a copy of the novel and was enthralled by the petty games of seduction and revenge that played out in its pages. (I didn’t see the film until years later, when I rented the video; I’ve seen both the Glenn Close version and the Annette Bening, Valmont; and of course the modern day remake with Ryan Philippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cruel Intentions. There was an earlier, modern day version made in the 1960’s I’ve not seen; it’s in French and I’ve always wanted to see it.) The novel is exceptional; originally published (and banned) in France in 1782, it was quite a cause celebre at the time; depicting the immorality and debauchery of the aristocratic class, it has sometimes been described as being one of the initial steps on the road to revolution in 1789. It’s an epistolary novel; you are reading the letters the characters all write to one another, so you see how the Marquise and the Vicomte are playing with their innocent, naive friends and relatives quite well. They are only honest with each other–although, of course, in this modern age the lesson I took from it was never put anything in writing, which is just as true today as it was then–and I had always wanted to do a modern, gay version. I eventually did, with Wicked Frat Boy Ways, but while I am proud of the book I also wish I could redo it some, revise and add to it more.

The film is extraordinary, and Glenn Close was certainly robbed–as she has been many times–of the Oscar for Best Actress.

As for The Maltese Falcon, it’s still a great movie, but I didn’t finish watching–and would prefer to rewatch when I can give it my full attention. It really is marvelously written, acted, directed, and filmed. I should probably reread the novel someday.

And on that note, I am going to dive back into the spice mines. The kitchen and living room are both a mess; I have errands to run, and of course, that manuscript to read. Have a lovely, safe Saturday, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow.